Thursday, May 28, 2009

Chasing Picasso

On Monday, the summer blockbuster "Picasso-Cezanne" show opened at the Musee Granet in Aix. It's first time the two masters have been united in a stand-alone show and there's lots of hoopla surrounding it, which you can imagine. But addition to "Picasso-Cezanne," there are scores of other important Picasso sites to visit this summer, including the Chateau de Vauvenargues, where Picasso lived with his second wife, Jacqueline; as of today it's open to small-group tours for the very first time (18 people max at a time, by appointment only).
In Cezanne's studio there's an exhibit of photos of Picasso taken by his friend, the Arles-based photographer Lucien Clergue and, hung in Aix's Vendome Pavillion, a show of 50 rarely seen photos taken by Jacqueline Picasso. The Picasso show continues at the Cathedrale d'Images in Les Baux until January 10th, 2010. And there's more. The French Government Tourist Office (FGTO) is suggesting a 10-stop self-guided tour from Antibes (location of the Musee Picasso) to Avignon (which the artist first visited in 1912 with his fellow painter Georges Braque).
You'll find all the info you need on the 'net. A good place to start is this special site created by the FGTO. And I found these three articles--in The New York Times, the Sunday Times and the The Wall Street Journal Europe--particularly helpful and well done.
Above: Picasso's "Arlequin" (1917) is on view in the "Picasso-Cezanne" exhibit in Aix.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Postcards from Provence

This would be perfect in your house, no? It's today's painting from Julian Merrow-Smith, the Bedoin-based artist who sells his work auction-style online. Félicité Parmentier (Roses in a Silver Cup) is an oil on gessoed card, 16cm x 17cm (6¼"x6½"). The auction starts today, Tuesday, at 8 p.m. GMT and ends Wednesday (tomorrow, May 27) at 8 p.m. GMT. Bidding begins at $100. Payment is by Pay Pal at the end of the auction--no account needed and all major credit cards are accepted. Shipping is $16. Some of Julian's paintings are also available as limited-edition prints. To see or learn more, click here.  To register or log in to the auction, visit:

Sunday, May 24, 2009

When Life Imitates Art...

Check out this fabulous suite at the Amsterdam Hilton: it's a real-life replica of Van Gogh’s painting The Bedroom. (Actually, the artist did three versions of The Bedroom, which hang in three different museums, but never mind.) The idea came from hotel director Roberto Payer, who was inspired by the ongoing "Van Gogh and the Colours of the Night" exhibit at Amsterdam's Van Gogh Museum. Payer hired Dutch designer Irma Boom to do the colorful transformation.

The room can be booked by the night (price varies) or as part of a Van Gogh package, which includes tickets and priority access to the show. After the show ends June 7, the hotel plans to keep the guestroom as is, for the forseeable future.

The "Colours of the Night" exhibit, which came to Amsterdam after a hugely successful run at the Museum of Modern Art in New York, is the first to be devoted to Van Gogh's representations of the evening and night, a theme which features heavily throughout his work. The exhibit includes some key paintings from the Van Gogh Museum's collection as well as an array of famous works from leading international collections, such as Starry Night (MOMA, New York) and Eugene Boch (Musée d'Orsay, Paris). Amsterdam is the exhibit's only European venue.

For info on the Amsterdam Hilton, the Van Gogh suite and Van Gogh packages, click here.

For info on the Van Gogh Museum and the Colours of the Night exhibit, click here.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Live and Learn

Tricia Harris hosts workshops in painting, drawing and French at Mas du Palmier in Paradou. The other day she dropped me a note to let me know about openings in upcoming of course I shook her down for discounts for my readers. Who loves ya?
First, the painting class. Led by Eyragues-based Canadian painter Catherine Schmid, the small-group class consists of three half days and one full day, beginning June 22nd. The week alternates between studio work and outdoor painting around Paradou. The reduced fee is €295 for 15 hours of training. Students may work in whatever medium they wish; so far there are two working with watercolor and one planning to use pastels.
Next, French classes. Tricia has room in three June classes: Beginners (June 15-19th), Intermediate 1 (8-12th) and Intermediate 2 (22-26th). The discounted rate is 280€ for five half-day sessions.
Students who require housing are offered a range of choices: chambre d'hote in the main house, an independent cottage on the property and local lodging ranging from a budget B&B to a four-star hotel. One current French student is staying in her own motor home on a campsite in nearby Maussane. "The idea is to offer tailor-made solutions for each individual," Tricia says. "The courses form only part of the holiday, after all."

Saturday, May 16, 2009

"There is Poetry to be Found Here"

There's a great story in today's NY Times about the Romans in Provence: how they lived and what they left behind. To write the piece, the paper's Paris bureau correspondent Elaine Sciolino toured Orange, Nimes, Arles and St. Remy, exploring well-known sites but also some you've probably never have heard of. It's so easy to forget what's right under our noses as we go about our everyday...and Elaine's piece reminded me of the magic. I can't wait to see the 20 Roman sculptures and bronzes that scuba-diving archaelogists pulled recently from the depths of the Rhone, including a marble bust of Julius Caesar dating from around 49 B.C., believed to the oldest representation made during his lifetime. The objects are undergoing restoration and will be displayed this fall, at the Musée Départemental de l’Arles Antique.

You can read the Times story by clicking here.

Photo by Ed Alcock for the NY Times.

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Mad About Absinthe?

Eric Asimov, Pete Wells and Florence Fabricant of the New York Times taste tested 20 absinthes for a really good article in today's Dining & Wine section.

"Few things demystify absinthe more than the daunting prospect of 20 glasses in front of you," Asimov writes. The brands and styles ranged in color "from pale celadon and shimmering aquamarine to extra virgin olive oil to dizzyingly garish shades that don’t exist in nature outside of South Beach nightclubs. But one absinthe was turquoise, which is near enough to green, I suppose. Another was mouthwash blue. A few were completely clear."

Without dwelling on the whole "absinthe makes you nuts" thing, the article offers up lots of solid info along with great tips for serving--"forget the sugar, remember the water"--and pairing. Asimov also treats readers to some classic quotes, such as this beauty from Oscar Wilde:

“After the first glass, you see things as you wish they were.  After the second you see things as they are not. Finally you see things as they really are, and that is the most horrible thing in the world.”

The panel found most of the brands tasted to be "unexpectedly good." Their favorite was the Swiss-made Kübler, which turned a brilliant white in the glass. "It offered rich, warm anise and herbal flavors that were deliciously subtle rather than greatly complex," Asimov writes.  
The next three picks were all French: Grande Absente, Pernod and Émile Pernot Vieux Pontarlier ("all were beautifully integrated, with balanced flavors centering on anise, licorice and fennel, augmented by herbs and citrus..."), followed by St. George (made in the U.S.) and Jade Nouvelle-Orléans (France). Herewith, the panel's top ten:
1. Kubler
2. Grande
3. Pernod
4. Emile Pernot
5. St. George
6. Jade Nouvelle-Orleans
7. Obsello
8. La Clandestine
9. Lucid
10. Mansinthe
You can read the whole article by clicking here.
Photo courtesy of the New York Times.

Monday, May 11, 2009

Deal du Jour

Such a deal! Lucy and Sam Bakr are offering their St. Remy vacation home for rent at 1000€ per week, instead of 1850€, until May 26th. The three-bedroom house is a 10-minute walk from the heart of the village, in a quiet area with views of the Alpilles Mountains. It has original tile floors and high ceilings, a well-equipped kitchen, a pool and pool house, a Provençal garden and a shaded terrace for al fresco dining. Electric gates provide safe parking and seclusion. For photos and more info:,, 04-90-92-17-26.

Sunday, May 10, 2009

Rick Steves' Travel Tips

If you live full or part time in Europe, you'll already know most of what European travel guru Rick Steves wrote in his column this week. But if you don't--and you plan to travel here this summer--you may find his short article "What's New in Europe for 2009" useful. Read it by clicking here...
And there's lots more good stuff on Rick's website, which you can see by clicking here.

Thursday, May 7, 2009

Judging a Book By...

Pia Jane Bijkerk has been a stylist her whole life—it just took her a while to realize it. Or so she says on her charming blog called Enhance the Everyday.
Growing up in Australia, she spent days rearranging her bedroom, shaping tableware sets out of backyard clay and "clicking away at the world" with a secondhand camera. In 1998 she graduated with a degree in photo and film and opened a boutique filled with global treasures—organic sheets, soaps, teak furniture from Indonesia. She sold the shop in 2003, contemplating her life’s true calling. Film? Photography? More retail? When a friend turned said to her: “You should be a stylist,” Pia replied: “What’s that?”
The rest, as they say, is history. She quickly made a name for herself, styling internationally for everyone from Vogue Entertaining + Travel and Real Simple to Saatchi and Saatchi and Tommy Hilfiger. Today, she uses her homes as her workshops--she splits her time between Sydney, Paris and a houseboat in Amsterdam--and her travels as inspiration.
Last month, Pia published her first book. In Paris: Made by Hand, she picks up on the trend among the young designers and decorators of Paris--who have embraced an aesthetic called fait main which means, literally, “made by hand”--and presents more than 50 of her favorite sources for the unique and the items made by hand, vintage objects, found objects that have been reworked. Included are a designer who makes glass jewelry, a couturier who sells fabric remainders, a vintage-housewares boutique set up like a home. One shop features furniture and home décor by young European designers; another showcases paper and stationery made by French craftsmen. Some are even shops owned by professional chineurs, people who hunt out objects specifically for decorators, designers and stylists.
She also lists cafés, bakeries, cheese shops and tearooms with artisanal foods that reflect the spirit of “made by hand.”
I haven't seen the book. I do love the cover, though, and how it captures the one-of-a-kind vibe. Depending on where you live, it costs around $12. You can read more about it here.
Ready to buy? They have it online at The Little Bookroom and at Amazon.

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Who Cut Off Van Gogh's Ear?

For more than a century, Vincent Van Gogh has been known as the tortured genius who sliced off his own ear in a fit of madness. But a new study claims that Paul Gauguin actually lopped it off with a sword as the two artists argued over a prostitute. In a new book, German art historians Hans Kaufmann and Rita Wildegans contend Van Gogh let everyone think he had mutilated himself in order to protect Gauguin from prosecution, Britain's Daily Mail and Daily Telegraph reported yesterday. According to the book, Gauguin dumped the sword into the Rhone River but it has never been found. Click here or here to read the whole story...

Saturday, May 2, 2009

Pâté or Dog Food? Most People Can’t Tell the Difference

Living in France, one gets ample chance to sample delicious things like pâté, foie gras, duck-liver mousse and terrine. So I was amused to see this article in the L.A. Times...